Christian Action League
More than two weeks after North Carolinians voted overwhelmingly to protect marriage in the state’s constitution, the media remains abuzz with amendment analysis and criticism of pastors who supported the measure.
“Unfortunately, in recent weeks there have been two pastors who have been highlighted in the media for making statements about homosexuality that are demonstrative of insensitivity toward those involved in the lifestyle,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “There are essentially two dynamics in play when this happens. (1) It can injure and unnecessarily offend people who are struggling with same-sex attractions – people who need help and are looking for understanding. (2) It can result in gay activists and other opponents of traditional marriage using these events to argue that churches who support and advocate for traditional marriage are all about bigotry and hatred, when this is truly not the case.”
Berean Baptist Pastor Sean Harris of Fayetteville issued a retraction following a sermon in which he suggested parents forcefully and physically discipline their children if they exhibit signs of same-sex attraction. Further west, the Rev. Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist in Catawba County suggested that homosexuals be confined in a type of concentration camp with an electrified fence.
Though hundreds of spiritual leaders throughout the state showed their support for marriage between one man and one woman in positive and edifying ways, Dr. Creech admitted there is significant room for improvement when it comes to addressing homosexuality from the pulpit.
“I can’t say that I have always been as sensitive as one ought when I consider what I have either said or written about homosexuality in the past. There are statements that I have made before that I believe I would say differently today. And I am genuinely sorry for those times when my words may have been calloused and brought injury. As ministers of Christ we have the challenge of walking that fine line of waxing prophetic and showing love,” said Dr. Creech. “I’m not suggesting we be timid – God forbid – that we don’t speak with biblical authority. Our culture cannot afford for ministers not to take up these very controversial issues from the pulpit. In fact, I would suggest that preachers are derelict in their duty if they don’t take them up – if they never demonstrate a righteous indignation in defense of a holy principle that’s viciously under attack. But when it’s done, our compassion for people who have fallen into sin must be equal to the passion we have against the sin they’re committing.”
Tim Wilkins, a formerly practicing homosexual and the founder and director of Cross Ministry, said “We are tempted to be grandiose, forceful, and effusive when addressing homosexuality…. It is easier to denounce homosexuality from the pulpit with great fervor and vast sweeping gestures than to portray a loving God who separates our sin from us as far as the east is from the west.”
In an article called “Handling Homosexuality in Your Preaching,” Wilkins said the approach demands “love, respect, care, empathy, humility and kindness.” He urges preachers to examine their motivations as they give their people “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
“Many Christians peddle heterosexuality like it’s ‘another gospel,'” he said, when in truth, “Conversion is to Jesus Christ who, in turn, transforms us into His image.”
“I personally did not experience freedom from homosexuality by reading and re-reading the account of Sodom and Gomorrah, Leviticus 18 and 20, Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6 — classic passages which condemn homosexuality. Yes, they impressed upon me that this form of sexual activity is sin, but I was already certain of that,” he added. “Pounding those passages over and over in your preaching may provide a diagnosis, but they do not necessarily provide a prognosis, a plan of action.”
Similarly, the Rev. Bill Campbell, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Hendersonville, N.C., said the whole issue of “change” is more complicated than we often make it out to be.
“People who wish to find healing from sexual brokenness of any kind need the right environment and plenty of time for healing,” he said. “Strugglers who are seeking to live for God’s glory may still find temptations and attractions to be a challenge for them — it’s part of being human in a sin-cursed world. That is why it is so critical that churches become informed and enabled to support people among them who are looking for help.”
Author of “Turning Controversy into Church Ministry: A Christ-like Response to Homosexuality,” Dr. Campbell said part of the key to expressing biblical truth in a graceful manner is the recognition that we are all sinners and that we need each other to get through.
“Homosexual activity should not be highlighted as a sin on its own, as though it’s somehow much worse than the heterosexual sexual sins that quietly plague most churches,” he said. “Every major mention in the Bible of homosexual sin is adjoined to a list of other common sins that impact each of us. That is how we should address this topic, putting all people on a level playing field.”
Dr. Campbell further pointed out that each mention of such sexual sin in the Bible is showcased in a redemptive context.
“The world needs to hear more than what is wrong; it needs to know that God loves everyone and provides a grace-filled solution that includes forgiveness and the grace to do what is right,” he said.
Dr. Creech urged pastors to take advantage of resources provided by both Campbell (www.churchreflections.com) and Wilkins (www.crossministry.org) to help guide their congregations to a better understanding and a genuine Christian response to persons living as homosexuals.
“When we mishandle Biblical issues, we not only fall short of our divine calling, but we can hurt the cause of Christ,” he said. “Our hope is that instead of responding inconsiderately to challenges or sweeping this issue under the rug, the church would rise up in the wake of the Marriage Protection Amendment and point the way toward healing and wholeness with firmness of conviction and the affections of Christ.”